The Sawatch Range is by far one of the largest mountain ranges in Colorado, spanning over 100 miles from north to south. This range contains some of the highest mountains in the whole continent, including Mount Elbert, Mount Massive, Mount Harvard, Mount Princeton, and Mount Yale. The Sawatch Range is known for some of the best views in all of Colorado, due to the huge number of high elevation peaks there. " />
Friday, 05 February 2010 02:50

Sawatch Range

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The Sawatch Range is by far one of the largest mountain ranges in Colorado, spanning over 100 miles from north to south. This range contains some of the highest mountains in the whole continent, including Mount Elbert, Mount Massive, Mount Harvard, Mount Princeton, and Mount Yale. The Sawatch Range is known for some of the best views in all of Colorado, due to the huge number of high elevation peaks there.

 

Sawatch Range Map

Mount Yale 360 degree Summit Panoramic Photo

Photo by Matt Payne

This range has five Wilderness Areas in it, including the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area - home to eight of the range's 15 mountains above 14,000 ft. In fact, the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness may very well possess the highest average elevation of any wilderness area in the contiguous 48 states, boasting over 30 mountains above 13,000 ft in elevation.

The Sawatch Range as seen from the summit of Mount Elbert

Photo by Matt Payne

This range is also home to the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, famous for Mount of the Holy Cross. Mount of the Holy Cross has an absolutely intriguing history, summarized nicely by Aaron Johnson of Summitpost.org:


In the mid nineteenth century, as the high country of Colorado was being explored, reports of a peak with a cross on its side began to circulate. A while later, it became clear that there was a high mountain with a large cross on its side formed out of snow. Finally in the August of 1873, a survey party led by Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, and including the photographer William H. Jackson, ventured into the wilderness above the Eagle River and located Mount of the Holy Cross. On August 24, two parties set off in different directions, the first to attempt to climb Mount of the Holy Cross, and the second, which included Jackson, to climb Notch Mountain and hopefully photograph the cross. Both parties were successful that day; one making the first known accent of Mount of the Holy Cross, and the other reaching the top of Notch Mountain, where Jackson took his famous picture of Holy Cross and its namesake cross. In the decades that followed, the area became a popular destination for religious pilgrimages. In the mid-1920’s a stone cabin was erected on top of the southern ridge of Notch Mountain to accommodate visitors. Due to the popularity of the area, in 1929, the area was declared a national monument by Congress. In 1950, the national monument status was rescinded.

 


Notch Mountain Shelter and Mount of the Holy Cross at Sunrise

Photo by Matt Payne

Unfortunately, the Holy Cross Wilderness Area has a reputation for misplacing hikers. Several hikers have gone missing for several days at a time, including one famous disappearance of Michelle Vanek near Mount of the Holy Cross:


"Out of water and exhausted near the summit of her first 14,000-foot peak, Michelle Vanek sat down on a rock on a windy September afternoon and implored her hiking companion to go ahead.
It was the last anyone saw of the 35-year-old Lakewood mother of four, who disappeared high on Mount of the Holy Cross in a case that remains an unsolved mystery despite the largest search in Colorado history.
Did she stumble and fall to her death or mistakenly wander down the wrong route, eventually to be overcome by the elements, as searchers speculate? Was she killed by an animal, perhaps indicated by a spattering of blood spotted in the snow some distance away? Or did a mysterious squatter who refused to answer questions from sheriff's investigators have anything to do with her disappearance?" -
The Denver Channel

 


Generally speaking, the Sawatch Range does not offer many opportunities for technical climbing, other than a few routes. Mount of the Holy Cross has a few technical routes and La Plata Peak boasts the Ellingwood Ridge route. Additionally, there are some very challenging mountaineering routes to be found on Ice Mountain (the Refrigerator Couloir) and Truro Peak.

Find out the avalanche conditions in the Sawatch Range

Find all summits in the Sawatch Range

Map of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area:

Map of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area

Map of the Central Sawatch Range:

Map of the Central Sawatch Range

M a p of th e Central Sawatch Range (fu rther South):

Sawatch Range Map

Further south yet...

Map of the Southern Sawatch Range

And finally the Southern Sawatch Range:

Map of the Southern Sawatch Range


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